Amid a season of peace to all, it is clear that even the most comforting and soothing attributes of the winter season are not currently extended to all British people. Storm Frank has taken its toll on the nation, wrecking communities and causing disparities which contrast with the usual warmth felt by many in this festive period. Those in Southern Scotland and Northern England have been forced to evacuate and close small businesses, Welsh residents have seen losses of power, and the Northern Irish impact has threatened roads and rail services. Dumfries alone has seen riverbanks burst, and as much as 120mm of rainfall in one day. The impact of climate change is undeniably becoming more apparent, and this age of natural disaster must provoke changes in the way we relieve our populations and prevent the next environmental catastrophes.
Several years ago, there were obvious opportunities to learn from previous flood disasters in Britain. 2007 saw approximately £6 billion worth of Southern English property destroyed, atrocities which provoked Sir William Pitt’s study of British flood responses. Pitt’s report emphasised the naïve outlook British governments had on dealing with mass water damage, highlighting the need for investment in new interception techniques and a detailed flood action plan. But recent developments simply lack physical and political strength, and many Pitt Report recommendations have been ignored.
The question which remains afloat in the flooding aftermath is over ways in which Britain can better respond to similar episodes in the future. Whilst numerous changes have been made, this month’s catastrophe has proven that Britain remains incapable. Cabinet sub-committees with flood responsibility have been set up and legislation in both Westminster and Holyrood has been passed to reduce flood risks.
In Dumfries and Galloway, one of Britain’s most affected regions, Council Chief Gavin Stevenson emphasised the extent of the far and wide flood damage. Dumfries and Galloway Council’s CEO went further to explain that whilst financial aid can help flooded-out settlements, strong links and uncompromised cohesion between communities is key. Social researcher Kim Chang found that during flood disparity within Northern England in 2009 strong links between one another in communities were common in harmed areas. Seamless connections between civilians, emergency services, charities, churches, the NHS and our governments must exist for a smooth transmission of aid during environmental crises, and
In order to keep Britain buoyant in the future, both in mindset and in terms of flood resistance, it is clear also that more provision must be made for communities at risk. The Conservative government’s crippling cuts over recent years have already proven to be detrimental to many public institutions, and the UK’s flood preventions have suffered no less. The Guardian reported in December that the amount of money put towards flood resistance had decreased by 10% between 2010-2011 and 2014. In addition, criticism of the Scottish Government, with the power to regulate over flood control, has been voiced. A report by the Institution of Civil Engineers allocated a ‘C’ grade to the SNP government for flood policy. In the Westminster parliament, Chancellor George Osborne has already promised £400m for flood defence in England alone, but many experts doubt that English and Scottish allocations will suffice.
The World Resources Institute indicated in a recent study that the flood risk not just nationwide but worldwide could have increased almost three-fold by 2030. Governments are sure to be alarmed by these revelations, and solid prevention plans and increased spending seem absolutely necessary. Further to this, the Institute also revealed that whilst current flood costs amount to around £65 billion, governments of 2030 could expect a bill of as much as £340 billion. The only way leaders will survive this new environmental age is by rigorous planning and investing in safeguarding communities. Watching as preventable disasters threaten livelihoods in a supposed developed nation cannot become a convention.
In an international context, and as the Pitt Report stresses, the Tories’ cumulative £400m to be spent on English natural disasters is markedly less than neighbouring states’ provision on a grander scale. 2002 brought devastating flooding across Europe, resulting in fatalities and chaos in Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic amongst other states. The central German region of Saxony became one of the worst hit areas, prompting a governmental rethink in flood prevention. As a result, waterways were reconstructed and revamped, plans for every eventuality were outlined, and a substantial €1.3 billion was allocated, aimed at solving this ever-prominent social problem. Saxony’s neighbours have in fact blamed the region itself, with more advanced prevention systems, for increased environmental damage, showing that an increase in spending and planning is having a positive impact.
After countless cases of devastation caused by recent flooding, it is time that our governments on both local and national levels focus on spending and cohesion to better deal with natural disasters. As the global temperature rises alongside sea levels, climate change is becoming an inexorable issue. Atrocities at home and abroad show that our leaders’ policy direction must change. Ensuring the safety of populations and communities can only come with more investment in flood defences and research. As experts predict flooding in more developing nations such as Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Cambodia with lower GDP, cooperation throughout civilisation worldwide is paramount.
With an enormous environmental strategy to develop, the need for which reinstated by flooded out Britain, we cannot wilfully watch our communities crumble. Fresh funding is urgently needed, along with unified citizens and services. Until both governments across the nation invest in new methods of protection and react to alarming research, the mood in hard-hit communities will continue to dampen. No longer can we watch citizens suffer as easy targets for the tribulations of changing climates. Storm Frank, with its seemingly harmless and cosy name, has appeared starkly different underneath its clouds.